Imperfect Patriots good enough to pull away from Steelers

Pittsburgh fell to 11-10 in games not started by Roethlisberger since 2004.

Not only did Brady not suffer any sacks in Pittburgh's 27-16 loss to the Patriots at Heinz field on Sunday, he converted three third and short-yardage situations on scrambles.

Tom Brady and LeGarrette Blount were too much for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger or no Ben Roethlisberger. Hogan coughed it up on the Patriots' first play from scrimmage, resulting in the game's first turnover.

The veteran quarterback started brightly and went 13 of 18 on completed passes for 123 yards and one touchdown in the first half.

This isn't the first time Jones will step into the spotlight for Pittsburgh. So don't expect Pittsburgh to simplify its game plan on offense. On second and ten from his own 29, Jones play faked to Bell, dropped back and lofted a flawless deep right sideline toss to Brown, who got behind Malcolm Butler, the play good for 51 yards.

While Jones wasn't ideal while completing 27 of 49 passes for 281 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his third career start, he was hardly the only reason the Steelers (4-3) dropped their second straight and fell to 11-10 in games not started by Roethlisberger since 2004. However, an upper leg injury forced Brown to the locker room for a pair of plays late in the third quarter with Pittsburgh trailing 20-16. The next drive was a short one thanks to a 25-yard shank punt by Ryan Allen. Their last two possessions of the half ended in drops.

Bell is on pace 1,100 rushing yards, 800 receiving yards and 97 catches. The Steelers blitzed on at least 30 percent of opposing quarterback's dropbacks in every previous season since 2006, including 35 percent or higher in six of the last seven years. Four of those touchdown passes have gone to tight ends Rob Gronkowski (one) and Martellus Bennett (three). He missed another extra point Sunday. "I'm doing a lot of agility stuff and trying to get back". The Steelers also missed a few attempts to put points on the board - a touchdown was called back because of a penalty, and Chris Boswell missed two field goals, a 42-yarder and a 54-yarder.

So, what is it going to take to generate a better pass-rush from the Steelers defense?

Brady finished the day 19-of-26 for 222 yards and two touchdowns as the Patriots chose to lean more heavily on Blount than in recent weeks. Over back-to-back weeks, Miami's Jay Ajayi and New England's LeGarrette Blount barreled through Pittsburgh's usually stout run defense at 6.75 yards per attempt on 49 tries.

Gronkowski caught four passes for 93 yards, and Julian Edelman finished with nine receptions for 60 yards. Brady's thrown 26 touchdowns against just three interceptions when facing the Steelers.

As for Blount's performance, it is pretty evident to me that Cameron Heyward is by far the most valuable component of Pittsburgh's defense. Jones saw wide receiver Antonio Brown in single coverage, but his lob was poorly underthrown.

He finished with 81 rushing yards and also had 68 receiving yards, proving he continues to be a risky dual-threat. The Oakland Raiders would have the No. 2 seed and a bye, a tentative scenario considering the Broncos and Steelers are waiting to pounce.

The Patriots will get an opportunity to avenge their only loss of the season next Sunday when they travel to Buffalo. The play was analyzed thusly: "Tomlin playing the percentages here". Having Brady at the helm instead of Jacoby Brissett will make quite a difference, as if that is even worth mentioning.

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